In The Know: Lawmakers Hamstrung Until They Put $19.9M Back into Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

Lawmakers Hamstrung Until They Put $19.9M Back into Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund: State lawmakers want to tap Oklahoma’s Unclaimed Property Fund for almost $20 million. It’s to put money back into the Education Lottery Trust Fund. This is the second year in a row the equalization board determined lawmakers supplanted education funding with lottery trust fund money. Last year, it was $10.1 million [Public Radio Tulsa]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OK Policy].

Bill To Consolidate Small Oklahoma School Districts Fails: A bill to consolidate some smaller school districts to save money and give teachers raises went down in flames in a senate committee. There are currently 520-school districts in Oklahoma. A plan to consolidate some of the smaller districts, those with 200-or fewer students, died on Monday. The author says it should have passed for two reasons [News 9]. If Oklahoma somehow moved every dollar that we spend on district administration into instruction, our funding ranking wouldn’t improve by a single state [OK Policy].

Capital gains deduction is an expensive loophole benefiting a small number of Oklahomans: The Capital Gains Tax Deduction allows Oklahoma taxpayers to avoid paying taxes on income from the sale of Oklahoma real estate or stock in an Oklahoma-based firm where the assets have been held for a sufficient period (68 OS § 2358). The goal of the deduction seems to be to promote investment and access to capital for Oklahoma-based firms. In an analysis for the state’s Incentive Evaluation Commission, PFM Group Consulting, LLC recommended that the capital gains tax deduction be eliminated [OK Policy]. Support SB 1086 to repeal the capital gains tax deduction [OK Policy].

West Virginia teachers are striking over some of the country’s lowest wages—here’s what other states pay: Today, all 680 of West Virginia’s public schools were closed because of a state-wide teacher strike. Teachers are protesting for higher wages and better benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers in West Virginia are among the lowest paid in the country. Recent figures from the BLS estimate that the average annual income for a high school teacher in West Virginia is $45,240. According to the BLS, Oklahoma pays its teachers less than any other state [CNBC]. The strike is set to continue Tuesday [CNN].

Common ground is hard to find on Oklahoma corrections reform: To comply with a 2 percent — $3.19 million — cut to its budget in the final four months of this fiscal year, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is freezing purchases of such things as computers and vehicles. This follows a recently announced freeze on hiring. The latter is particularly significant, given how the state’s inmate population continues to grow and how difficult it is to move reform proposals through the Legislature [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

ACLU’s Kiesel presses legislative leaders to deliver promised criminal justice reforms: As the March 1 committee deadline nears, the Oklahoma Legislature has not considered meaningful criminal justice reform measures authored this session, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Movement on the measures would, the group said in a release earlier this month, “send a strong message about the Legislature’s dedication to improving public safety while restoring the lives of their fellow Oklahomans [CapitolBeatOK].

Sobering Center is a smart move to help Tulsa residents: The groundbreaking of Tulsa Sobering Center last Thursday marks a progressive arrangement to cut down jail costs and offer a lifeline to residents struggling with substance abuse. The city of Tulsa is building the center on the property of the nonprofit 12&12, 6333 E. Skelly Drive. It’s a partnership of experienced social workers and Tulsa Police. The center will have 42 beds — 25 for men and 17 for women — and will operate 24/7 [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

OKC Hopes To Hire Health Parole Officers: The City hopes the idea of offering people a health parole officer is worth millions. That’s part of its pitch in the Mayor’s Challenge 2018 by Bloomberg. The winning idea gets $5 million for the project. Other ideas will receive $1 million to implement. OKC wants to coordinate Criminal Justice data to better serve the needs of people after they are released from prison or jail [News 9].

Program allows those with mental health issues to receive treatment in Rogers County: Among the discussions generated from the recent shooting at a Florida school is the subject availability — or lack thereof — of resources for persons suspected of suffering from mental health issues. While there may be few simple answers to the complex issues surrounding mental issues, in the Rogers County court system, a program exists to assist those with mental health issues to receive treatment [Claremore Progress].

Audit Shows Major Backlog Of Untested Rape Kits In State: A new audit of law enforcement agencies across the state is showing there’s a major backlog of untested sexual assault and rape kits. The audit was done by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and it shows there are close to 6,700 untested sexual assault kits in the state. Those numbers are just the ones reported [News 9].

New Rx drug charges show need for ‘e-prescribing’ law, Oklahoma AG says: New prescription drug charges filed against two Tulsa County residents are the latest examples of why an “e-prescribing” law is necessary to battle the opioid epidemic, the state attorney general said Monday. David Todd Banfield, 46, of Tulsa, and Tammy Lynn Logan, 45, of Sand Springs, were charged last week with two felony counts of obtaining by fraud or forgery a controlled dangerous substance [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmakers taking shot at medical marijuana regulations before vote: The state Legislature is considering significant restrictions on the medical marijuana industry ahead of a statewide vote in June on whether to approve its use. A Senate committee narrowly approved a host of regulations, including a limit on how many businesses can be licensed to manufacture and sell medical marijuana. Senate Bill 1120 would also let the Oklahoma Board of Health set the price of each dose a patient buys [NewsOK]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

Schools, Colleges Largely Off Limits to Guns. Other Places? It Depends: Every year, Oklahoma state lawmakers propose legislation to make carrying guns easier and push back on attempts to constrain gun ownership. Yet nationally, firearms and momentum for stricter gun control continue to be high-profile issues that draw widespread attention after each mass shooting, whether in Nevada, Texas or Florida. With little appetite among Oklahoma legislators for stricter gun laws, the only real question would appear to be when open carry will be expanded to everyone, not just those with concealed carry licenses [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma Students Demand Change In Wake Of School Shooting: Some Oklahoma students are demanding change in the wake of the Florida school shooting. They’re planning to hold a protest at the state capitol next month. They’re calling it March for Our Lives Oklahoma [News 9].

Oklahoma House committee OKs sports betting: An Oklahoma House of Representatives committee approved a bill late Monday that legalizes some forms of sports betting at tribal casinos. House Bill 3375, by Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, is an Indian gaming bill that would allow forms of “dice and ball” games — craps and roulette — and pooled sports betting. In return, the state would get 10 percent of the games’ proceeds [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“We are ready, we are willing. We stand on the right side of public education, by being back here and outside our schools tomorrow.”

– Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, speaking at a rally for teachers who are on strike for better pay and benefits in West Virginia. Average teacher pay in West Virginia is about $3,000 per year higher than in Oklahoma (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage increase of drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma over the last decade and a half.

Source: Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Behind the minimum wage fight, a sweeping failure to enforce the law: As Democrats make raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, and Republicans call for states to handle the issue, both are missing an important problem: Wage laws are poorly enforced, with workers often unable to recover back pay even after the government rules in their favor. That’s the conclusion of a nine-month investigation by POLITICO, which found that workers are so lightly protected that six states have no investigators to handle minimum-wage violations, while 26 additional states have fewer than 10 investigators [Politico].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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